TALLAHASSEE -- State officials say they've ended the contract with a firm that handles emergency alert messages, after a test meant for TV and radio stations got sent to millions of cell phones early Thursday morning.
Everbridge, which manages messaging for public safety agencies, says it's investigating what it calls an "unfortunate procedural error" that caused the test to go out at 4:45 a.m. Eastern. Here's the full statement from their PR department:
“We have a long history of supporting the State of Florida and the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) dating back to 2016. Our system is used by cities, states, and entire countries around the world. We provide powerful technology that is used for good, and to save lives. There appears to have been an unfortunate procedural error in this monthly test that we are investigating. As mentioned by FDEM, we too regret the inconvenience this test caused the residents of Florida earlier this morning. We are committed to the State of Florida and to FDEM as a partner, as we are with all of our customers, to continue to improve and ensure best practices are applied.”
Some of the Floridians who got an early morning wakeup call took to social media, vowing to turn off alerts on their phones. Officials say that could cause them to miss tornado warnings and other public safety messages.
Meteorologist Austin Flannery at the National Weather Service office in Ruskin, which serves the Tampa Bay area, also got awakened by the alert. Flannery says the accidental test did show the system can wake people up and deliver life-saving information. Why is that important? "A lot of times in Florida, we see our most significant potential for severe weather overnight, when people are sleeping." The system is also used to distribute other public safety messages, including AMBER Alerts.